Welcome to the Block & Mortar newsletter! Every week, I bring you the top stories and my analysis on where business meets web3: blockchain, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and metaverse. Brought to you by Q McCallum.

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#40 – Six podcasts in five hours

Now that everyone and their kid brother hosts a podcast, you’ll always have something to melt away the hours when you find yourself with free time. Extended workout? Cross-country road trip? Your flight’s stuck on the tarmac due to weather delays? Grab those headphones and tune in.

I’ve been catching up on my podcast listening as of late. So for this week’s newsletter, I’m sharing six episodes on the topic of web3. Queue these up and you’ll get five hours of listening. Maybe some of these podcasts will make it into your normal rotation.

(By the way, let me know if you’d like me to do another podcast roundup in the future.)

These shoes are a perfect fit

The Scoop: Scottie Pippen unpacks the power of flexing in the metaverse

(Listening time: 1hr)

Basketball legend Scottie Pippen dropped by The Scoop with his colleague David Broome. The two spoke with host Frank Chaparro about Pippen’s new “SP33” project, a collection of sneaker NFTs.

Wait – don’t leave yet! This isn’t Yet Another Celebrity Hopping On The NFT Bandwagon. Pippen and Broome were initially skeptical of crypto and shied away from it. They then did some research and saw that there was so much more to it than ape JPEGs and rug pulls.

(I can relate. That path from “skepticism” to “discovery” is the origin story of this newsletter.)

During the interview, the pair talk about what it meant to bring their own vibe to web3. Pippen’s experience with sneakers and involvement in commercial sneaker deals informed his approach to the collection’s design. Broome, having come from the TV world (he created “The Biggest Loser,” among other shows) explained how he wanted to bring TV quality to web3 projects.

Both explored what it means to build community around an NFT project, the importance of interoperability (the SP33 NFTs will work across multiple metaverse properties), and the power of letting the product speak for itself.

It’s all connected

Odd Lots: The ‘Widowmaker’ Crypto Trade That Helped Blow Up an Industry

(Listening time: 40mn)

The financial markets are a fascinating study in risk and complex systems. Participants, acting in their own interests, comprise a constantly-changing and interconnected whole. Those connections are what make the marketplace tick. They’re also the reason why a “single” problem can spread to so many market participants.

Crashes in the cryptocurrency space have two additional curses of being relatively frequent (compared to tradfi stock market crashes) and moving at high speeds (because the crypto markets never close). TerraUSD/Luna was still smoldering when we had to shift gears to trace the connections to Three Arrows Capital (3AC) and Celsius. And though it’s been two months since Block & Mortar has mentioned the FTX meltdown, the question marks around Genesis never really faded away.

This episode of Odd Lots is really about market structure and getting (indirect) exposure to Bitcoin through trusts, but guest Ram Ahulwalia also shared some thoughts on the Genesis pains and other crypto meltdowns.

Oh, and he then drew a Shakespeare connection.

No, really. Shakespeare.

Have a listen, you’ll see.

(Side note: Odd Lots stands out as being the only podcast on this list that doesn’t focus exclusively on crypto. It hails from the markets section of Bloomberg, where hosts Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal cover everything from the pandemic’s impact on supply chains to macroeconomic issues. For a real treat, check out their series on asset bubbles.)

Wallet wars

Empire: The Wallet Wars: Rise of the SuperApp | Qiao Wang

(Listening time: 1hr)

A marketplace is a central entity that makes it easier for parties to meet and interact. That definition includes physical spaces, like a collection of vendor stalls under a single roof. It also extends to rideshare, dating sites, and credit card networks. When you build the most popular social network or smartphone, your service or device sits between your audience and the rest of the world.

The middlemen who run the marketplaces therefore hold a lot of power. Hence why the crypto “wallet wars” are heating up. Imagine if everyone were using your company’s wallet? That’s not just a space to manage their token transactions and hold their NFTs; in a way, a wallet represents their digital identity.

That’s the topic of this episode of Empire. Hosts Jason Yanowitz and Santiago Roel Santos joined guest Qiao Wang to spend an hour discussing wallet-based superapps (where you get messaging, payments, dating, social media, and more in one place), how culture plays into UI/UX design, and one way adtech may enter the crypto wallet space.

Has this inspired you to build a wallet, in your quest for world domination? Do yourself a favor and pay close attention to what Wang, Yanowitz, and Santos have to say about that. (Hint: start with a form of utility; the wallet part is secondary.)

Teaching the enterprise new tricks

The Defiant: Yorke Rhodes Explains How Microsoft Is Leveraging Ethereum

(Listening time: 1:15)

“Emerging technology” and “large, established organization” have always made for an odd mix. Either the company is held back by inertia (case study: cloud computing adoption in the enterprise), or it’s diving headfirst into the latest buzzword bingo (see: AI, AI, and AI).

If you’re in the former category, this episode of The Defiant may help.

Yorke Rhodes heads up blockchain efforts at Microsoft, a company of more than 200,000 employees that’s pushing fifty years in operation. The software behemoth operates in a range of spaces, including gaming (XBox), social (LinkedIn), productivity (Office 365), and search (Bing).

How does he handle it? Rhodes explained that he sees his team as a startup, and his internal Microsoft customers as a wider market for that startup to sell into. His first steps are to understand what each business unit needs, and then to educate that market on the capabilities of the new technology.

Like most startups. Rhodes’s team hears a lot of “no” … but they still get up the next day and try again. Perseverance pays off.

As a bonus, Rhodes shared examples of how businesses can look at NFTs as more than just images.

Pitching “cash” as an idea

Money Reimagined: Isn’t That Stuff Just for Criminals?

(Listening time: 45mn)

Discussions of crypto are never far from the topic of crime. There’s too much money, and too little regulation, for criminals to resist. Individuals can simply roll their eyes and walk away, but governments don’t have that luxury. Citizens want law enforcement to investigate thefts, criminals use tokens for payments, and then there are the law-abiding businesses that just want clear guidelines on what they’re allowed to do.

In this episode of CoinDesk’s Money Reimagined, host Sheila Warren sits down with Dr. Marcus Pleyer (deputy director general, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Finance) and Yaya Fanusie (director of policy for AML and cyber risk, Crypto Council for Innovation) to look at programmable money through a regulatory lens. The trio discuss balancing a government’s desire for information with an individual’s right to privacy – especially when a central bank digital currency (CBDC) is in play; how crypto’s transparency sometimes makes know-your-customer/anti-money-laundering (KYC/AML) easier;

the frictions that arise from applying old laws to new technology; and the difficulties in making rules for a decentralized technology that is used across multiple jurisdictions.

As an especially thought-provoking point, Warren notes how difficult it would be to pitch the idea of “cash” – and all of its privacy implications – as a new idea in today’s society.

Bitcoin enters the real world. Sort of.

Bloomberg Crypto: There’s A Bitcoin Bar In NYC. Why?

(Listening time: 20mn)

Bloomberg journalist Muyao Shen enjoys food and writes about crypto for a living. Those interests crossed paths when she visited Pubkey, a New York bar with a Bitcoin theme. Not bad for a work outing.

Co-owner Thomas Pacchia describes Pubkey as a “cultural center or clubhouse” for crypto where experienced players can commiserate and the crypto-curious to learn. Pubkey also plans to host monthly speaking events, to keep people abreast of what’s happening in the industry.

Apparently the place stands on its own as a bar. It helps that the owners bought out and re-themed an existing establishment. (Some patrons have dropped in just to check the renovations in their old haunt.) And, according to Shen, the place serves a stellar hot dog. I guess that’s what happens when your pub’s chef used to work at a Michelin three-star restaurant.

(There had been a running joke that the Bitcoin bar doesn’t accept Bitcoin as payment … but … as of Friday, that’s no longer an issue.)

The wrap-up

This was an issue of Block & Mortar.

Who’s behind Block & Mortar? I'm Q McCallum. I've spent the past two decades in the emerging-tech space. And I'm very interested in web3 use cases.

Credit where it's due. Big thanks to Shane Glynn for reviewing early drafts. Any mistakes that remain are mine.

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